The human brain and visual systems are extremely advanced. Generally, they allow people to carry out extraordinary tasks without too many problems. Nonetheless, these complex systems are fallible.
Both the mind and visual systems can play tricks on us. We may not see something that is right in front of us. The term for this is inattentional blindness, and it causes many accidents, particularly where cyclists are concerned.
What is inattentional blindness and why does it occur?
It can be tempting to think of our eyes as video recorders that document every fine detail. This isn’t actually how the visual system works. Key environmental information is processed through the eyes in milliseconds and much of what we see is actually the brain filling in blanks.
Usually, this goes smoothly but it can go wrong. The phrase “my mind is playing tricks on me” is relatively common and it is based on truth. Sometimes, you may see something that is not actually there. Or, the opposite can happen, you may fail to see something that is right in front of you.
In the context of cycling, inattentional blindness can cause accidents in numerous ways. Here is one of the more common examples: A driver is heading to a place that they have never been to before. They are focussed on the road, but they want to make sure they take the right turn. They spot the turn and steer in that direction, hitting a cyclist. The cyclist had been there all along, the driver had even turned their head in that direction, but inattentional blindness prevented them from seeing the cyclist.
As a cyclist, you should not be placed in unnecessary danger. If you have been hurt because of negligence, make sure you look into your legal options.